Ampalaya (Scientific name: Momordica charantia L.) is the Filipino term for Amargoso, Balsam apple, Bitter melon. It is a kind of vegetable found in the Philippines with a bitter taste. Its fruit and young leaves are used to prepare many dishes. Ampalaya cooked with strips of beef, a dish called Ampalaya con Carne is one of the popular dishes made of Ampalaya. A salad made from Talbos ng Ampalaya, the young leaves of this vegetable can also be prepared.

Ampalaya is the Filipino name of the tropical and sub-tropical vine of the family Cucurbitaceae that widely grown in the Amazon, Carribean and Southeast Asia for its bitter edible fruit. Ampalaya or Bitter melon as the name implies has a bitter taste due to the presence of momordicin, and is believed to be among the most bitter of all vegetables.

There are 2 kinds of Ampalaya shapes: a rounded one and the other one is a long one. (See picture below of Ampalaya in Kerala, India which is the long variety)

Ampalaya is called in other common names, such as:

Paria (Ilokano); Palia (Bisaya); Bitter gourd, Bitter cucumber, Balsam pear, Bitter melon, Papailla, Melao de sao caetano, Bittergourd, Sorosi, A'jayib al maasi, Assorossie, Balsam apple, Balsam pear, Chin li chih, ejinrin Gule khandan, Fu-kua, Karela, Pavakka, K'u kua kurela, Kor-kuey, Ku gua, Lai p'u t'ao, Pava-aki, Salsamino, Sorci, Sorossi, Sorossie, Sorossies, Pare, Peria laut, Peria

Ampalaya or Bitter melon green fruit and young leaves are cooked and taken as food.

The unripe green Bitter melon fruit is harvested and cooked for consumption in Asian and Indian cuisines. Bitter melon can be sliced and stirred fried, mixed with meat and boiled as soup, mixed with curry or stuffed with spices and fried in deep oil.

In Kerala, south of India, Bitter melon fruit called Pavakka (Malayalam) is made into a curry. In the Philippines, the Bitter melon fruit is used as in ingredient of various dishes like Dinengdeng, Ginisang Ampalaya with Itlog. While the leaves (Talbos ng Ampalaya or Dahon ng Ampalaya) are blanced and made into a salad with chopped tomatoes or used an ingredient for Ginisang Munggo (Sauteed Mung Beans)

Personal Note: Ginisang Munngo with the leaves of Bitter Melon or Ampalaya is such a delicious dish. I hope that one day, some countries will also adopt this Filipino way of cooking the young leaves of Bitter melon.

Tip: I like Ampalaya the way it taste. Although, it is said that it is the most bitter vegetable, I think its bitterness is tolerable. But for those who does not like bitter taste of Ampalaya, in the Philippines, we cut the Ampalaya fruit into thin slices and put salt over it, then squeeze. But my best tip, is to leave it the way it taste and you will see how special this vegetable is. Besides, its bitterness has also medicinal purposes.

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